Kees van Dongen (1877-1968, Dutch-French)

Kees Van DongenKees van Dongen (1877-1968, Dutch-French) was a Fauvist painter who was known for his sensuous portraits of women. Born in the outskirts of Rotterdam, he was one of four children. At 16 his interest in art was confirmed by his studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. His first subjects were sailors and prostitutes.  In 1905, he began to exhibit in Paris and was part of the controversial Salon d’Automne whose members included artists such as Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. Because of the bright colors that they used, they were referred to as Fauves or “Wild Beasts”.  In 1906, he became acquainted with Pablo Picasso. After WWI, van Dongen’s paintings became popular with the upper classes and French bourgeoisie. In 1926, he was awarded the French Legion of Honour and three years later he was offered French citizenship. Even so, from 1959 he lived in Monaco and died there in 1968.

Van Dongen is especially known for his paintings of women which sometimes include a cat or a dog. Van Dongen’s Woman and a Cat uses complementary colors to arouse our attention with the cat gently curving in the same line as the woman’s hat. Always linked to women, the cat is seen here as a feminine symbol, but also gives us the feeling of calm self-assured laziness.


Woman with Cat


Van Dongen was also acquainted with the cat loving Leonard Foujita and in Woman Holding a Cat, we again see the bright colors of the Fauvists while the woman holds the cat lovingly. The cat looks not at the bird above as would be expected, but off to the side. Again, perhaps a reference to its laziness or symbolic of the cat’s happy captivity in the arms of the woman.


 Woman Holding a Cat, 1930, Kees van Dongen

Woman Holding a Cat, 1930


Woman and Cats, Kees van Dongen, 1912

Woman and Cats


Kees van Dongen Femme au fond blanc, 1910-14

Femme au fond blanc, 1910-14


The reader - Kees van Dongen

The Reader


Woman with a Siamese Cat; (La Dame au Chat Siamois), 1924, by Kees Van Dongen

Woman with a Siamese Cat; (La Dame au Chat Siamois), 1924


Kees Van Dongen - Cour d'un immeuble parisien avec un chat

Cour d’un immeuble parisien avec un chat
Parisian patio with furniture and a cat


Kees Van Dongen man with cats and birds

Man with Cats, Birds, and Mice, Pied Piper


Kees van Dongen (Dutch, 1877-1968), Chat jouant avec des arums

Chat jouant avec des arums


Cat drawing by Kees van Dongen (1877-1968) - Colored pencil and charcoa

Cat Drawing


Le Jour ni l'Heure 1358 Kees Van Dongen, 1877-1968, cat art

Le Jour ni l’Heure 1358



Want to know more about the cat in art, history and literature?  Then Revered and Reviled is the book for you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats





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